In Tulsa, there were three major hospitals where the Pediatric residents trained. The largest, St. Francis Hospital, is a thousand bed facility known as the pink palace because of its fine, Italian pink marble exterior. My older daughter Andrea was born there during my residency.
St. Francis also is the home of the Eastern Oklahoma Perinatal Center, or as we called it, the EOPC. This Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit had 45 beds and also admitted sick babies referred from Arkansas and even Missouri. Routinely the premies there were only 21 to 24 weeks gestation, and less than two pounds. By today’s standards, such a 45 bed unit would not be uncommon. In 1983 when I started my Pediatrics residency, it was huge.
There were always three, or four, first year residents in the EOPC, each caring for about a dozen little babies. The senior third year resident who was responsible for them was himself directly responsible to the EOPC staff neonatologists. We all rounded together at least twice a day carefully going over each and every patient.
Residents, even though they are in training still, do get paid a little. The entering stipend for me was something over $16,000 a year. The EOPC always needed extra second and third years supervising first year residents at night, and it put a little extra money in our pocket. It wasn’t much but it was the only place we could really moonlight. I supported my wife Stacy and my new daughter Andrea on this income.
The number and range of diagnoses and clinical conditions I saw at the EOPC was unimaginable. The intensity was such that I have had to direct two resuscitation teams simultaneously each trying to save dying babies. The mortality rate for the EOPC as a whole was over 30%, a reflection in large part on the fact that lung surfactant had not yet been developed. Lung surfactant helps keep the air sacs open and inflated easily after just the first breath.
Tulsa Medical College had not only trained me well, but it foisted the mantle of leadership onto my shoulders. It taught me how to bring the various medical professionals together as a team. It gave me confidence in myself as a Pediatrician.
That gave me a love for children which has continued to grow stronger over the years. I invest myself emotionally with my kids. I long for their success and good choices in life. I want the best for them. Tulsa made me the physician that I am today.
Not to say that I haven’t taken care of some extraordinary children, but Laura was the main beneficiary of mine. Everything I had learned in training would be required of me for her. Everything Stacy and I had grown to be as husband and wife and as parents would also be required for her.
Everything I had believed in the Lord for Laura would also be tested.